WHEN Ashley Argent’s alcohol addition was as its worst, he was drinking up to 20 cans of lager a day.

He did not realise he had a problem but, for his family, the signs were obvious.

In September he underwent a detox in hospital, and was in a psychiatric ward for his addiction.

Now, he is about to finish a newly launched drug and alcohol project, during which he had the pleasure of sitting next to royalty.

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, attended Essex County Council’s Clouds in the Community project.

She was at charity Action on Addiction’s new treatment centre in Wickford, where Ashley has been for the past seven weeks.

The 34-year-old, of Churchill Way, in Colchester, said: “I was alcohol dependent for six years.

“It just started escalating, I started drinking after work and in the evenings, and it just started creeping in more and more every day.

“I didn’t realise I had an issue but everyone around me was noticing the effects.

“I was drinking 12 cans of lager a day on average, sometimes up to 20 on a bad day.”

The floor fitter said his fiancée, Crystal Rice, and three daughters, Charlie, 16, Chanell, 14 and Angel, eight, were all worried for him.

He added: “You get dependent and you just need alcohol to function.

“You just continuously keep the levels up as the anxiety kicks in.

“My fiancée and children noticed it, my fiancée’s family did a lot to support me.”

Over the past two years he has been working with support groups such as Open Road and the Phoenix Project, but has suffered some relapses.

In September, after a second relapse, it drove him to psychosis.

He said: “I lost everything. I didn’t see a way out.

“I was suicidal and I did go into the Linden Centre, in Chelmsford, while I was there I saw the damage alcohol does to people.

“I’d have got help sooner I wouldn’t have been there, I was only in there for eight days but that was the start of my recovery.

“I have seen and heard of a lot of people who don’t make it and it’s sad when the help is there.”

His doctor referred him to Open Road and then the Phoenix Project.

The Phoenix Project put him forward for the Clouds in the Community project as he showed willingness and capability.

He said: “I really wanted to change and you have to prove you are not using.”

He started the course in December and is due to finish in two weeks’ time and he describes it as “the best thing” he could have done.

Mr Argent added: “I was nervous as there’s people there with all different addictions, there was a lot of anxiety.

“We do four workshops a day and group therapy, we have speakers come in to give talks.”

This new programme will support Action on Addiction’s mission to offer widespread help.

It is also based on the charity’s work at its treatment centre, Clouds House, which first opened its doors 35 years ago.

As part of the visit, The Duchess of Cambridge officially opened the new Wickford Centre, and took part in a round-table discussion with council officials.

Mr Argent was able to sit next to her during a talk.

He said: “She is such a nice, calm, genuine lady.

“She had a genuine interest and kept talking to us.

“The project is definitely making a difference, it’s keeping me sober every day. It’s definitely something people with an addiction need to do.”

After turning his life around he is due to marry Crystal.

His daughter Charlie, who attends Thomas Lord Audley School, has also started offering addiction support with an advice stand in class.


Ashley will also be hosting awareness events in the future, telling people his story.

He said: “I’m feeling a lot better, my communication and relationships are better.

“I had nothing this time last year but it’s all coming back to me, I just want to thank my in-laws and everyone else for their support.”

Ashley is happy to speak to anyone who needs help with alcohol abuse.

To get in touch with him, email ashley.argent@live.co.uk.